Sunday, May 30, 2010

more thoughts...

I re-read my post about the week gone. It all reads a bit like a general whine. Ok, maybe I was whining. Well, there you have it. Ironically, I've been going pretty good lately. Not just the way I feel about my training, but also from the feedback I've been given.

It's made me think though. About the purpose of training and what constitutes good rolling and good training partners.

I'm sure it's all been said before and by people who are much more eloquent than I'll ever be. Still, the point of writing (for me) is not just in stating how I see things, but in doing so, get a better handle on what exactly I am thinking. Ah yeah, and there is the getting feedback business that comes with blogging :-)

Right up front I want to say that I have no real issues. Neither do I have any problems that are specific to being a woman in a male dominated sport. It's really down to size and strength discrepancies, ego and newbie issues, and some general issues about the way we learn. So where to start?

I wish I had more mat time. I currently train 5 times per week and my body is coping pretty well. But I want more, and I wish there were time at the end of every class to go over new stuff. Just to give the new info a bit more time to settle in, a few more reps and a chance to resolve the odd question which tends to arise after I mull it over for a few minutes. But I shouldn't be greedy :-) . We have open mat Friday night after class and there is time set aside for another open mat session on Thursdays.

Recently, a couple of blue belts who have been away have come back to training. That's fantastic, because I get a lot out of all of them. They are nearly always prepared to explain and help, even mid-roll. And as I've stated many times before, we have a great bunch of guys at our school. If they tell me that I need to change the way I do something, then it pays to listen. If they tell me I did something right, I know it wasn't a throw away remark to make me feel good. And they challenge me. Haha, don't they ever….

We have some totally new guys who aren't quite ready for rolling yet. At least I feel I have a solid enough base now that I can help them with basic stuff. And by showing, explaining and helping them, I have a chance to deepen my knowledge. For every time I revisit a simple technique, it seems less simple. The more I think about the simple stuff, the more I realise that my application of the basic principles still leaves a lot to be desired.

Then we have a bunch of white belt guys who vary from fairly green (one stripe or less) to quite advanced, bordering on blue belt. There are a couple of young ones with long limbs, and they are fast, aggressive and they give the blue belts a hard time. Then we have the big, strong, heavy ones who can smother the likes of me. And whenever push comes to shove, I'm getting the shoving! Oh, and did I mention, they have vice grips for hands, too.

Where do I fit in? The four stripes on my white belt mean that I've shown I can do the techniques which are required by our syllabus and I've demonstrated that I can apply many of those in a wrestle. I have competed three times but I certainly didn't set the world on fire. I'm quite tall (5'9") and a lightweight, so thankfully not one of those small, delicate girls :-) . I'm reasonably flexible and reasonably strong (though nowhere near as strong as most of the guys). I'm quite fit, more so than many others. I'm not very fast and sometimes my lower back reminds me that my chassis is over 40 years old. So I have some things going for me and some things against me. Mentally, I'm usually very positive. And when I roll, I love to sink a sub, but I'm equally as happy about some other good move I pull off.

I'll roll with anyone. If they are new, I help them. If they are small (like a girl), I go a bit easier, and I try to challenge them without killing them. If they are big, I try to stay out from under them, which generally fails and then I defend etc. If they go hard, I go hard (unless they are new spazzies, in which case I stop, show them something and call it a roll). I don’t have serious issues with anyone.

The problems are actually relatively minor. In many cases, I found I had a bad case of talking myself into failure ("I can't do this"), so of course it doesn't work.., a lot of this I have addressed and it's not happening very often now. Repeat after me: there are no such things as problems, only opportunities!!! Of course I have little relapses, but I'm working on it :-)

Then there is the size problem. Simply, if I roll with guys who are heavier than I, everything is hard going. And we have several that are like 1.5 times my weight. Even if they are white belts, that spells trouble for me. If they are blue or purple belts, I'm mat pizza with busted arms :-) . Tapdance! But, if they are blue or purple belts they might just decide to NOT use all their crushing weight, and then it can be quite fun. I don't mind if they do it to set me up to try a new technique. I know I'm not making it too easy to work the new technique, so hopefully, they have some fun, too. Meanwhile I have fun because I can work and actually even try an attack myself. And just eeeeevery once in a while, I hit something, and that’s fantabulous.

Whereas a heavy white belt only knows how to use weight and muscle. They might think they are not, but they are. That's when I'm in that totally frustrating zone where I can only defend, keenly feeling like I didn't deserve a single of those four stripes!! They work their butts off getting something, which I can normally defend. They heave and groan and push and pull and pin me down. And so it's just stalling. And we both get nothing out of it.

It's not that my ego can't take it. Sure it pisses me off, and the prospect of a blue belt some day shrinks away into the distance as I flop about like a fish out of water. But really, I can take it. And it's not that I resent the pain or the bruises, for getting sat on by mr.big generally means sore ribs.... It's not a tea party, if I'd wanted an easy hobby, I would have picked lawn bowls or floral decorating. But I do want action.

Our mat time is limited and therefore valuable. Ideally, any roll should be a learning experience, but sometimes of course it feels more like getting schooled :-) But if I get caught, good and well, we shake hands and get on with it. On the other hand, if nothing happens (and that could be my fault, too), then the learning is minimal.

And so if I get a guy who has not yet figured that there is no "winning" if he literally picks me up from turtle to turn me over, or from gripping my hands in a death grip, or from getting mount and just sitting there, then I get a little frustrated. If someone only knows how to open my guard by way of elbows digging into thighs and flexing his biceps, or to pass my open guard by flinging my legs across hard, then he will not advance his own learning by sticking to those limited techniques. Sure, they work on me, because I'm outmuscled and outweighed. But when he tries the same on a guy his size, it probably will not work. Everyone figures that eventually.

But there is little to be gained from me rolling these guys. And I will admit that often, I interrupt to show something they might use to improve their game and then leave it at that. I have also let things go so they get a sub just to finish it, and congratulated them if it was done reasonably correctly.

What I need at the moment is people my size, both more and less experienced than I am. That's why I prefer to roll with the young guys who go balls to the wall, rather than the big guys. I might lose, but at least it was fun. At least stuff happens! And I'll come away thinking: I could have tried so-and-so... And no matter how ferrety and fast they are, I've learned a thing or three, so youth and speed and flexibility is no guarantee they won't be on the receiving end of a sub from me. But at least I can move, there are no boring bits. Stalemates maybe, but lots of changes of position. It's fun, "win" or "lose". But my best be are the blue belts and above about my size.

I want to get better. The more I catch little glimpses of "good" or "better", the more I crave to be there. Of course I realise that "there" doesn't exist, for when I get better I will want to get better again. That's a good thing though. And as I get better, I can be more fun for the people I train with, both the ones better than I and the ones less experienced.

Well, that's my thoughts on the matter. I hope that didn't sound like another whine, because it wasn't meant to be one. And I won't be running away from the big guys or the musclemen, I'm just making my case for spending more time with the others.

Anyway, back to the mat tomorrow, and I promise to be bright and cheerful and positive :-)


  1. Thanks for posting this. I don't think it sounds like a whine at all. This is often exactly how I feel, especially with the newbies & strong guys who haven't "gotten" jiu-jitsu yet. I'm also being more picky about who I spend my rolling time with to maximize fun and learning.

  2. I don't know if posting "whining" is necessarily a bad thing. That's one thing I like about blogging. You can go back, read, see you were whining, and perhaps pinpoint things that cause you to start feeling sorry for yourself.